Monday, November 17, 2014

Ladies Night Out

Don't miss Movie Night
Tuesday, November 18
Fellowship Hall
Wear your favorite modest pjs and houseshoes
Snacks will be provided

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

God Bless the USA by Donna Clayton

In July of this year, I was privileged to visit the Normandy American Cemetery and memorial at Normandy Beach in Caen, France.

I entered the museum theater with the families on our educational trip. Words cannot express what emotions I felt as I watched a video interviewing older veterans who had been a part of the D-Day Invasion in June 1944. The screen flashed black and white photos depicting the faces of their youth as they told what they remembered about that historic day. Many of them choked up with tears as they shared their memories of “storming the beaches” after they parachuted into the channel; they were marching directly into the face of death. 73,000 American men – most were very young, some had not even made it out of their teens. The sacrifices they made, the courage they exhibited, and the emotional aftermath that so many of them endured for decades after the war was all for our benefit.  

Today I watched a video that made me remember, once again, the sacrifice made for the benefit of all generations. Remember with me.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Word for the Week

*corrected reference is Psalm 61:2 (KJV)

I don't know about you, but I have some days where I am just plain overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with difficulty, sadness, my own inability, too much to do and not enough time to get it done, others' insensitivity, world problems, and the list goes on. (Please tell me I am not alone.)

On those days, we need to recognize that there is One who wants to carry our burdens, who wants to comfort us, who wants to give us joy in spite of our circumstances. We need to run, not walk to Him.

But we also need to realize that sometimes we may need to lead others to that Rock. Not just those who don't know the Lord, but our fellow sisters and brothers who are just so overwhelmed at the moment with the difficulties of life. They know Truth; they just need someone else to come along beside them to "sister" them and strengthen them in the Lord. 

I've been on both ends of this, recently even - the running to the Rock and the being led by others stronger than I at the time. Will you pray and ask God to draw you to Himself and then to use you to lead others to the Rock today?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Apple Cider Vinegar Tea by Paula Roten

For years, I have heard about the benefits of apple cider vinegar. It is credited with helping any number of ailments. Just look it up on reputable sites on the Internet and you will find the same information over and over: 
  • helps with diabetes and sugar control
  • helps control cholesterol levels
  • is full of probiotics
  • supports immune function
  • can help with constipation or diarrhea
  • can aid with weight loss by speeding up the metabolism
  • can ease body odor
  • relieves sore throat, colds, and sinus infections
  • relieves joint pain and stiffness
  • promotes digestion
  • prevents allergies
  • helps clear skin conditions and blemishes

Now, this wonderful, economical, easy-to-find pantry staple is not the most palatable thing to get down. In fact, for years I have substituted regular white vinegar in its place in salad dressings and coleslaw because of the strong taste. 

But lately, I decided I wanted to give it a try because of all the benefits it could have for my body and because I need to stay well and not spread germs to my granddaughter who is battling cancer. So, I went out and bought Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar with the mother (at Kroger it's in the organic section of the store). From what I've read, the mother is very important. You don't get all the health benefits from the processed apple cider vinegar we find on our store shelves. You must buy the raw, organic, non-distilled variety which contains the mother.  

By trial and error, I discovered a most enjoyable and palatable way of getting my required 2 T. dose in every day. You may want to start with less vinegar and even less/no ginger and then up the amount as you develop a taste for it. I was fortunate in that I liked it full-strength from the very beginning.

Apple Cider Vinegar Tea

1 herbal tea bag (I have a huge stash in my pantry and have used every flavor before buying any more. I really like Celestial Seasoning's Country Peach, Raspberry Ice, Red Zinger, and Salada Green Tea with Red Antioxidants)

12 oz. water

sweetener (I use 2 tsp. stevia)

1 tsp. powdered ginger *

2 T. organic, raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar

1/2 - 1 cup more water


1. Brew the herbal tea bag in a large mug of about 12 oz. of water. Allow time for it to steep.
2. Pour into a 1 qt. glass jar.
3. Add the sweetener, ginger, and apple cider vinegar and stir well. 
4. Add another 1/2 cup water (or more).
5. Fill the jar with ice and stir.

*Check out the health benefits of ginger. It also strengthens the immunity and is said to be an anti-inflammatory as well. 

My tea is a variation of Good Girl Moon Shine by Trim Healthy Mama.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Bible Studies

Don't miss out on the upcoming Bible Studies starting next week. Be sure to sign the lists on the ministry table in the Welcome Center this coming Wednesday night or Sunday morning so we'll be sure to have a book for you. 

1) Children of the Day by Beth Moore - 9 week study
of I & II Thessalonians
Begins Monday, Sept. 8 at 6:30 pm and Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 9:30 am

2) Precept upon Precept
Luke Part 2: The Savior of Sinners Chapters 17-24
8 weeks
Begins Monday, Sept. 9, 9:00 am

Tuesday morning classes will provide childcare, but please register your children (and if you could call the church office this week to let Carlene Belue know, that would be great!)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Word for the Week

Everything is permissible, 
but not everything is beneficial. 
Everything is permissible, 
but not everything is constructive. 
I Corinthians 10:32

Take a step back and look at your life. Are there things that the above verses bring to mind? Social activities, movies and TV shows you watch, foods you eat or drinks you drink, how you spend your free time, what you read? 

Time to take a personal inventory and hold it up to the light of Scripture today. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Refrigerator Pickles by Brenda Riden

My garden has had tons of cucumbers this summer, and I found this super easy recipe for the most delicious sweet pickles. And the best part? They are super easy to make!

Refrigerator Pickles

3 cups sliced cucumber
3 small onions (I used 1 large onion)
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 t. salt
1-2 t. celery seed

Put cucumbers and onions in large bowl.  Mix vinegar, sugar, water and salt until dissolved.  Add celery seed.  Pour over cucumbers and put in jars and put in refrigerator.  Will keep 2-3 months in frig (if they last that long).

From Savoring Time in the Kitchen

Monday, August 25, 2014

Word for the Week

Make the most of every opportunity. 
Colossians 4:5

A very popular Christian blogger had this scripture on her Facebook page recently with, basically, the instructions to live life to the fullest, being totally there and aware. Sounds good, doesn't it?

I wanted to see the scripture in context, and here's what I found. The verses surrounding this one tell the Christian how to live the Christian life with commands like "devote yourselves to prayer, with an alert mind and a thankful heart" and "let your conversation be gracious and attractive, so that you will have the right response for everyone."

This scripture is actually a continuation of a first part:

Live wisely among those who are not believers; 
and make the most of every opportunity.

This "make the most of every opportunity" is actually telling us to look for ways to share the Gospel with nonbelievers. And do it by being alert to opportunities and by being gracious. 

Kind of puts a different spin on it, don't you think?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Want to Hear Beth Moore?

Refresh Women's Ministry has 4 tickets available to hear Beth Moore at the Fed Ex Forum this weekend - Friday night and Saturday morning for $59.00 each. If you are interested, please call Lisa tomorrow at 662-349-5005. You will need to pick up your wristband before 3:30 tomorrow. For time schedule click on the following link:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Creole Okra by Paula Roten

I'm the girl who likes my okra cornmeal-coated and fried. Slimy okra? No way! But I happened upon a recipe years ago that surprised even me. I still can't believe I like it, but it is a dish I can't wait to have every summer when the fresh tomatoes and okra start coming in. 

A friend gave me some tomatoes recently, and I commented to my mother that I would love to have some fresh okra so I could make the Creole Okra. She said she had made it with frozen cut okra before and it did fine. So I decided to try it. It wasn't quite as good as the fresh, but it certainly hit my spot!

Creole Okra - 2 servings

1 T. butter
3/4 cup sliced okra
2 T. minced onion
2 T. minced green pepper

3/4 cup chopped tomato
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

1. Melt butter in skillet. Add the okra, onion, and green pepper. Cook for 5 minutes. 

2. Add the tomato, sugar, salt, and pepper. Cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Made in Heaven...for Life by Christie Smith

There are moments that change us. They are moments we remember forever or moments that change the way we live forever. There are great moments that break our hearts for the good… the mission trips and the conferences… holy places that we get to share with friends who are on the same page, the friends in the same season of life or those seeking the same things we seek. But what about the bad moments that change us forever… the moments we don’t choose? The phone call that tells you someone you love has died. The diagnosis that scares you to the core. The struggles over hard choices we have to make for unwanted issues with our kids. Are these not holy places too? In the good times, it’s easy to find people who want to share in the moment. But when we walk with each other into the sacred, holy places that change us, the moments that leave us speechless and begging God to answer our question of “why,” we form bonds that will never be broken. These friendships are refined and strengthened in the fires of life. And these are the friendships that will outlast all others. So, don’t be afraid to share these sacred places with others. We all try to put our best foot forward. We have our “Facebook worthy” masks on and rarely want anyone to see the blemishes in our lives or in our souls. But when we show each other the raw parts of ourselves, places that are still healing, it is an intense kind of intimacy that is sacred. And sometimes, it’s where our world and God’s world collide. His original plan for us was relationship. It’s what we were created for. But I think we seldom, if ever, reach the level of relationship that He intended. We rarely open ourselves up enough to let anyone really know us. And maybe that is because that openness in the past has been met with judgment and criticism instead of love and acceptance. But don’t let that stop you from finding those friends that you can be transparent with, friends that you can trust your heart to. Trust me…they are out there! Sometimes it takes going through those hard times to show you who those friends are. And if you have those “in the furnace of life” type friends, it makes the hard times a little better.

If you’re lucky enough to have this kind of friend, first…thank God!!! Your friendship truly is a gift from Him! Second…tell them! Too often we let thoughts and feelings go unspoken. These friendships are made in Heaven to help us get through the cruelty of this life and to share in the joys as well. And last…invest in them! Live life together, make time for each other and choose to be there through it all.

So, who came to mind when you read this article?
Share this with them and let them know that they mean the world (and the next world) to you!!!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Word for the Week

We never know the burdens someone else may have. Let's purposely speak kind and encouraging words to those around us. Let's give the benefit of the doubt to those who seem unkind to us. Maybe they are dealing with anxiety and discouragement that we don't know about. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Fearless Faith by Vicki Taylor

I’ve been camped in the land of Judah for about a week now with King Jehoshaphat. I am beginning to realize that I am a slow learner when it comes to what God wants me to learn, especially about faith. I wish I was one of those people who can read a scripture, know immediately what the Lord is saying, and apply it to my life then. But I am not. I have to sit on it a while and let it sink in to my brain until it finally reaches the darkest corner in my heart, pushing out all doubt, unbelief, and fears that I have buried there. And that’s why I’ve been camped in Judah with Jehoshaphat…

Now, Jehoshaphat had been told that a multitude of armies were coming against him, and he was very afraid. But what Jehoshaphat did, instead of cowering in fear, is he “set himself determinedly, as his vital need, to seek the Lord.” (Amplified Bible) Simply put, he asked the Lord for help. He had a great need; he went to his Great God. He gathered all of Judah around him and they began to seek the Lord together, yearning for Him with all their desire.  

When you have a great need, do you seek your Great God? We Taylor’s are a small group, four in all. But, when we have a “great need,” we gather together, like campers around a camp fire, sending calls and texts across three states getting the need out. Nesbit to Oxford to Atlanta and back, we all pray together across the miles, for our great need. Staying in contact constantly seeking, waiting, yearning. We rejoice when God answers, we wait when He lingers. We live by faith…  

There are times, like Jehoshaphat, “We are powerless against this great need, we don’t know what to do, but we will keep our eyes on You Lord.” I believe God allows tribulations and crises in our lives to not only teach us to rely on Him, but to teach others how to rely on Him (like our children). Our response to these trials and crises is what others see.  

I myself have a tendency to be fearful, like Jehoshaphat. What God wants for us is to find freedom from our fears. You see, real freedom is not the liberty to do what we want or the absence of trials. Jon Bloom says in his book Not by Sight, “Real freedom is the deep-seated confidence that God really will provide everything we need.”  EVERYTHING!  If you really believe that, you are truly free and have nothing to fear whatever your situation.

Unfortunately, the only way for us to experience this kind of freedom is by continually being the recipient of God’s delivering power and faithfulness. And that’s why we are to “count it all joy” … when we meet those various kinds of trials, which continue to come. They are making us free … fearless and free.

I believe what God is saying to us through this story is … trials will set you free from the bondage of a fearful faith. In 2 Chronicles 20:15 the Lord told Jehoshaphat, “Be not afraid or dismayed of this great multitude: for the battle is not yours, but God's.” By giving our fears to the Lord and letting Him fight our battles for us, we learn to cultivate a fearless faith.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Another Iced Coffee Recipe by Paula Roten

Remember a few weeks back when I told you I love all things coffee? Well, I've found another iced coffee recipe, and I like this one even better than the last one I gave you. Like the other one, this is a "healthy" version. Feel free to de-healthify it if you wish.

Iced Coffee
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 Starbuck's packet of Via Italian Roast coffee (or 2-3 tsp. instant coffee)
splash of vanilla flavoring
1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of sea salt
Stevia, to taste
1 tsp. vanilla whey protein powder (I use Jay Robb's and I use 2-3 tsp.)

Blend all ingredients together in a blender or shaker jar. Fill a quart size canning jar with ice, pour the coffee mixture over it, and fill the rest of the way with cold water. Stir and enjoy! (I prefer mine a little stronger, so I don't fill the jar all the way with the water. Find what you like!)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I Need You, Jesus by Lynda Leeson

I Need You Jesus

Prayerfully listen to the words of the above beautiful song and consider Peter's question to Jesus in John 6:68 (NIV):

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words 
of eternal life."

There are so many in our local body dealing with "stuff" that we would prefer not to have. I was struck by the simple truth of this question..."To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." I don't think that simply means life in heaven. I believe that starts when we accept Christ and the answers are always found in Him.

Don't be overwhelmed. 

Look to Him. 

He has the answers.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Word for the Week

Have you thought to do this when you are in trouble and need God's help? It's a real test of faith: Praising God before He even provides the help we need is a true picture of our faith in Him. Can we praise Him for whatever is going to happen? Can we praise Him before we know whether or not He will deliver us? 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Waiting on God (...and a Parenting Book) by Kim Wright

I have a bone to pick with James Dobson!

 …and Dennis Rainey! 

 …and every parenting expert, Christian radio broadcaster, conference speaker and book author that I’ve leaned on in my almost 24 year journey of raising kids! 

I have been well-trained in the terrible twos. I know all about the pesky puberty years. I have ridden the waves of the turbulent teens…and lived to tell about it! I’ve even been schooled in how to send your child to college and survive the empty nest (even though I still have some chirping around here!)

 …But when it comes to being a parent of an adult child (notice that oxymoron?):  SILENCE.  

Ask about how to train your “tween,” and there are books, tapes, weekend ceremony ideas, and more. Wondering how to get your newborn to sleep through the night, and you have ladies in the grocery store that you don’t even know willing to dispense advice. Wondering how you can insert yourself into your 20 something year olds' decision making process, when you really haven’t been invited? Silence, Nada, Nothing…in fact, you can hear the crickets chirping. 

So I’ve had to turn to the resource that I should have turned to first…the perfect parent, God Himself. I have been praying earnestly for guidance and wisdom for me, as well as the adults that I have raised, as I am watching them make decisions that could affect the rest of their lives. He has been teaching me, but let me warn you, the lessons have been difficult.

My daily Bible study has not been about parenting…or so I thought. I have been reading through the book of Genesis. I was praying about how I should handle some specific circumstances that had landed on my “parenting plate” and it just happened to be my day to read the story of Abraham and God’s promise to bless him and make him into a great nation. 

First, what a great reminder to realize that God can and will speak directly to our children at times….and He may or may not include me in that process! (Ouch!) I can’t help but wonder about Abraham’s conversation with his father when he first informed him that he and his wife were moving.  

“Son, where are you going?”

“I’m not sure, Dad, God hasn’t told me that yet…only that I’m supposed to move.”

“What will you do about a job? You’re making a good living here.  Why would you walk away from all this?”
“I haven’t worked out all the details yet, but I know that God will take care of me.”

“What will you do about insurance? My grandchildren won’t know me! Are there any good Baptist churches there? Isn’t that a high crime area? What if…” (I’m having a little fun here, but you get the idea)

“Dad, God has assured me He’s going to take care of us…and I believe Him!”

What if Abraham had listened to reason and common sense instead of God?

After that initial parenting lesson, God wasn’t finished with me. He proceeded to introduce me to woman after woman who shared a common trait with each other and with me. They were master manipulators. 

Sarah believed God’s promise that He would bless her husband with so many descendants that they couldn’t be counted. However, she started to wonder how in the world this would take place as the years passed and her body exhibited the signs of one who could no longer bear children. Perhaps she needed to take control of the situation herself, she reasoned. This was not a matter of faith…it was a matter of common sense! She could no longer bear children; her husband was given a promise that he would have children, so she must figure out a way to work it out. However, her way wasn’t God’s way…and it didn’t end well.

Rebekah also had a promise from God. When she was pregnant with twins, they jostled within her womb so much that she inquired of the Lord to find out what was happening inside of her. He assured her that she was going to bear twins, and they would be the fathers of two nations. He also gave her a prophecy that the older child would serve the younger. Years later, as her husband Isaac prepared to give the blessing to the older sibling, Rebekah intervened. Perhaps she thought it was her responsibility to make sure things turned out the way God had intended. After all, God had made it clear to her the older would serve the younger, and now her husband was about to ruin everything! So, Rebekah took things into her own hands…and things didn’t end well for her family either.

Finally, I read about Lot’s daughters. These girls had endured much. They lost their home, their friends, their fiancĂ©’s, and their mother. They had barely escaped with their lives. They found themselves living in a cave with their father, and no other human beings in view. Surely they had been saved for a purpose! The command had been given to Adam and Eve in the beginning…and then again to Noah, as God gave his family a second chance: “Be fruitful and multiply!” Now here they were, saved from God’s devastating wrath on their hometown, but with no man in sight to carry on their family line. Was this really the way God intended things to end for them? But wait, there was one man in the cave… of course, he was their father…and their idea was a little unconventional, but desperate times call for desperate measures! It seems they would have to work things out the best way they knew how. Once again, their plans were not God’s plans…and the results were devastating. 

Four women who were sincerely trying to do the right thing for their families…

Four women who jumped into action when God’s plan seemed to be taking too long or not working out quite like they thought it would…

Four women whose impulsive decisions impacted not only them, but their children and future generations, as well…

So what did I learn from these women? 

I need to trust God with my adult children. I need to be quiet, and quit hinting, suggesting, and advising. I need to pray. I need to claim the promises of God, and wait patiently for Him to act. I need to resist the urge to take matters into my own hands when things don’t seem to be going "according to plan."

I need to “…cease striving and know that [He] is God.” (Psalm 46:10 NASB)

These are hard lessons for a girl who has never been afraid to speak her mind or make things happen! While I’m sure there will be times God prompts me to speak the Truth in love or spur people to action…the resounding message I’m hearing from God at this particular time is “Wait on me. I can be trusted.”

I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg in my parenting adults’ adventure! I feel certain there are many more lessons to learn, and I’m sobered by the fact that as spouses and grandchildren are added into the mix… the stakes will be greater, because more people will be affected by the decisions my adult kids make. It’s a tough gig to be a mom, but I’m committed to praying and trusting all the more!  

In the meantime, will somebody get busy and write a book to help me out already!!???

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Meaty Spaghetti Sauce by Paula Roten

I've got all 6 grands coming over today for a "cousins sleepover." Trying to figure out kid-friendly meals can be quite a challenge, but I'm pretty sure I know one meal all kids like. Spaghetti! I've been making this Taste of Home spaghetti sauce recipe for quite a while now. The main thing I love about it is that the crock pot does all the work. But I also love the fact that there is lots left over to bag up and put in the freezer for another busy day with no time to cook. 

Feel free to personalize this recipe by reducing or even eliminating the sugar (it IS a very sweet sauce) or even using the Italian tomato sauce rather than plain. I make it slightly different every time based on what I have in the pantry. This time I put the onion, garlic, green pepper, and tomatoes in the food processor since my kids tend to not like chunky bits in their sauce. But one thing I always do is to use all ground beef. My family just doesn't care for Italian sausage in their spaghetti. 

Meaty Spaghetti Sauce

  • 1 pound lean ground beef (90% lean)
  • 1 pound Johnsonville® Mild Ground Italian Sausage
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) Italian diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) tomato sauce
  • 2 cans (6 ounces each) tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Hot cooked spaghetti


  • In a large skillet over medium heat, cook beef and sausage until no
  • longer pink; drain. Transfer to a 5-qt. slow cooker. Stir in the
  • green pepper, onion, garlic, tomatoes, tomato sauce, paste, sugar
  • and seasonings.
  • Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until bubbly. Serve with
  • spaghetti. Yield: 12 servings.

Read more:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Obedience by Paula Roten

"My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice." Ezekiel 33:31

These words are haunting me lately.

I was at my grandson's house recently. When I was ready to leave, he excitedly gave me a bag and asked me to hand it out to someone homeless. 

You see, his church emphasizes ministering to the community. The congregation made up small bags with bottled water, granola bars, tissues, wet wipes, and other small needed items, and then began handing them out to the homeless people they came across. 

This project is a direct response to Matthew 25:35-36, 40: "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

My grandson and his dad have made these bags and keep them sitting on top of the refrigerator. Several weeks back, Eli got one and showed me all that was in it. He was so excited about it. Then this past Monday as I was about to walk out the door, he took one down and told me to find someone homeless to give it to. 

There is always someone sitting at the expressway exit as I turn to go toward home. So I knew this "assignment" would be easy. As I drove, I remembered reading an article one time about making up this very same type bag. They were called Blessing Bags and could be put together as a family project or even as a church mission outreach. And while my heart had been stirred by reading this article, I never did anything about it. And now my heart was stirred again. 

As I came upon the exit, I realized that no homeless person was sitting there! Then it dawned on me that I had approached this "assignment" all wrong. I had approached it like an assignment rather than as a ministry. I immediately began to pray that God would point me to just the right person who would benefit from this practical gesture. I asked the Lord to please allow me to find someone that very day on the way home, someone that He wanted to receive this blessing bag. And sure enough, not too far down the road, there someone was. As I pulled up to the stop sign, I rolled down the window, and handed the bag out to the man. 

"It sure is a hot day today, Sir. Please receive this water and this bag in Jesus' name."

He thanked me, and I drove on. 

Now, I know, some of you are wondering if that man was really homeless or just too lazy to work. I don't know the answer to that question. I just know that God answered my prayer immediately, so perhaps this particular man needed this particular bag this particular day. I also know that I was convicted about doing more to meet people's physical needs. And, finally, I know that the Holy Spirit seems to be working in my grandson's heart lately, and God allowed me to be used in His plan this particular day. I let my grandson know I had done as he had asked and handed the bag to a homeless man. He responded that that sure was fast! I replied that there are needy people all around us. I then prayed and asked God to use this incident to build my grandson's faith and to encourage him in working for the Lord and being obedient to what the Word tells us to do. 

"My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice." Ezekiel 33:31

I promise that if you pray asking God how you fit into the above verse, He will most certainly show you. And when He does, I want to encourage you to be obedient.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Word for the Week

Notice rejoice and trouble being in the same verse here? Yeah, me too. Why is rejoicing in the midst of difficulty so hard to do? Maybe the end of the verse is the key - keep on praying.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Keep Showing Up by Christie Smith

I'm the mother of five children, and now that my youngest just turned four, I feel as if I'm wandering out of a very dark forrest. I can see some light at the edge of the woods. I can even see some sort of civilization in the distance. But my eyes haven't quite adjusted to the light. And conversation with the mortals? Someday maybe, but for now I've grown accustomed to only being able to associate with people from my own world who speak my language.

Some of you may laugh at my exaggeration, but if you're a mother of "littles," then you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's something I never expected as I embarked on motherhood. And I never thought of how becoming a mother would change my church experience. First, you're basically missing in action for the first couple of months after having a baby. And when you finally make it back into the land of the living, it's a brand new way of doing church. If you manage to physically make it into the building, that doesn't mean you're going to be able to show up mentally. It's as if your newborn's attention span has now become your own. Sitting through a church service and being able to focus emotionally for worship and mentally for any sermon lasting more than five minutes is next to impossible.

Now, multiply this experience by five. Imagine the drama on Sunday mornings of getting five kids dressed and out the door on time. Even if all of us are healthy enough to go to church (because another thing they forget to tell when you have kids is that the first five years of their life they pretty much catch EVERYTHING), the chance of you actually being able to sit down in that pew and absorb anything is a miracle in and of itself. The feeding of the five thousand has nothing on the miracle of a mother being able to attend church and actually connect on any level with anyone other than the little people that seem to be superglued to her legs. 

There are so many times I ask myself, "Why am I even here?" I could stay home in pajamas watching church on tv and have a better chance of absorbing something of value. What does it matter if I actually show up to the building? Can't I meet with God anywhere at anytime? True. I have had many meaningful experiences with God at 2a.m. during those early morning feedings with one of my babies. (And still do when they get me up then because they're sick or have had a bad dream.) But I do believe it's important to keep showing up. There's value in staying connected to your church family. Being a stay-at-home mom, it's easy to become disconnected from the world around you. There is so much to do everyday just to keep your home running smoothly. But what about your heart? Mothers are so busy getting everything done, making sure everything and everyone is taken care of...getting this kid to practice and that kid to piano and making sure this one makes their doctor's appointment and then squeeze in a play date for another that needs to be involved in some sort of socializing activity. We spend every ounce of energy making sure our kids' physical and emotional needs are met, and then our husbands get home and we're supposed to make sure they're ok physically and emotionally as well. It's not that there's little left at the end of the day for our own needs. It's that we usually reach empty hours before the day is over. 

But I have to believe that my presence matters to God, even if no one else in the church cares. Hebrews 10:24-25 talks about this very thing. I like the way the New Living Translation puts it: "Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near." The Bible does not say: Don't forsake the assembling of yourselves together unless you're a mom and it's just really inconvenient, or Sunday is your only day off, or you just want to hang out at the pool, in which case you are excused because you just don't need fellowship as much as other Christians do. No, I'm thinking God had a perfectly good reason for including this in the Bible, and I don't think it was to give us one more thing to do. He knows that we need relationships, and as mothers, we may need them more than ever before in our lives. The issues that come with raising children are overwhelming. We need other mothers who have our same priorities, women we can confide in and share our struggles, fears, and concerns with. These Godly friendships not only keep us connected to people outside our own four walls, but help us sort through the overwhelming realities of motherhood that can become narrow and distorted if viewed only through our own perspective. 

And if that's not enough to keep you committed to staying connected, here are a few statistics that might motivate you. 
Studies show that if you don't go to church for a month, the odds are almost 2 to 1 that you won't go for more than a year. And think of all we pass on to our kids. One study shows that if both parents attend church regularly, 72% of their children remain faithful in attendance; if only Dad attends regularly, 55% remain faithful; if only Mom attends regularly, 15% remain faithful; and if neither attends regularly, only 6% remain faithful.

What legacy will you leave your kids? Are you committed to demonstrating to them that going to church is important? I know there are times when you feel like you're drowning in responsibilities and commitments that are all centered around your family. Be very careful, young mother, of what qualities you are passing on. Trust me...your presence matters, so keep showing up! 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Italian-Style Stuffed Yellow Squash by Paula Roten

I've been trying to eat healthier lately. I found this stuffed zucchini recipe at a blog called Gleams of Sunshine. Please make sure you look at the original recipe because I did change it up quite a bit. But I post it here because my husband really enjoyed it and told me it was one of his favorite things I had fixed lately...since trying to eat healthier ;)

Italian-Style Stuffed Yellow Squash 
4 large yellow squash, cut lengthwise 
1/2 lb. Italian sausage 
1 small onion, chopped 
Two Roma tomatoes, diced 
2 cups frozen spinach (some I had left from a bag of fresh baby spinach I had put in the freezer)
1 cup sugar-free (or reduced) spaghetti sauce (I used Colavita Spicy Marinara Sauce)
1 cup cottage cheese (I used 2%)
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and Truvia to taste 
Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, enough to  top squash (This is what I had. Original recipe calls for a 4-cheese Italian blend)

Pre-heat oven to 350°. Pre-slice and dice all veggies before beginning. 

Place sliced squash into a foil-lined pan and pre-bake for 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, begin browning the ground sausage and onion. Cook meat completely, with no signs of pink. Drain grease. 

Take the squash out of the oven and scoop the middle, creating a squash “boat.” 

Chop up the squash innards and add it to the meat (I omitted the really large seeds), along with the diced tomato and spinach.

Cook the meat & veggie mixture for an additional 5 minutes, and then add the spaghetti sauce, cottage cheese, and spices. Heat through. Add Truvia if a little sweetener is needed. 

Stuff the squash boats with a generous portion of the filling. Place in the oven. 

Bake 20-25 minutes. 

Top with a generous sprinkle of the cheese blend and pop them back into the oven just until the cheese is melted. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

God's Not Dead by Paula Roten

...and all the time, God is good!

Yes, I saw the movie God's Not Dead at church Sunday night. I had already seen it, but I think I got more out of it this time than the first time. 

I was overwhelmed with the fact that GOD LOVES PEOPLE AND WILL PURPOSELY PURSUE THEM.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

I was reminded by Josh, the college freshman in the film, that God will take me out of my comfort zone and ask me to make a stand for Him...but I have the choice of whether or not to do it. 

"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven." Matthew 10:32-33

Mina reminded me that even as Christians, we sometimes look for love and acceptance in all the wrong places. We want people to meet the deepest needs of our lives instead of God. 

Pastor Dave showed me a mistaken view I sometimes have. The grass often looks greener on the other side. At times, I romanticize someone else's Christian life and their opportunities to serve the Lord. If I would only open my eyes and have a willing heart, I would see the many ways God wants me to serve Him right where I am, at whatever stage of life I'm in.  

Amy, the young woman who discovered she was dying from cancer, reinforced the concept that the fairy tale ending of "...and they lived happily ever after" is not always true in this world. There is disease and pain and suffering on this earth. But we can be assured that there will be no more tears in heaven. Jesus will take all that away.

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4

And Professor Radisson. So much to say about him. I don't want to be like him and let circumstances dictate what I think about God: My circumstances are awful; therefore, God must not love me. My circumstances are awful; therefore, I will hate God because after all, He could have changed the way things turned out. 

I want to start with God and look at my circumstances through the lens of God's character: 

"The Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished." Exodus 34:6

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

God is good; therefore, whatever comes into my life is for my good and God's glory...even if I can't figure it out. (Merciful, Gracious Father, please help me to always remember this!)

Didn't you want the movie to end differently? (I won't be a total spoiler here just in case you haven't seen the movie yet.) But I came away from the movie with even more of a conviction that I need to live for Jesus NOW. 

I need to stop using excuses: 
"I'm too busy and don't have time." 
"I'm just a.........(teenager, housewife, senior citizen, shut-in, person with no skills and no education - you fill in the blank)"
"I'm too intellectual."
"I'm young. I have plenty of time."
"I'm building my career. I'll do it later."
"Raising kids is a full time job!"

I need to look for opportunities to share Jesus and and serve Him in my everyday life.

Only one life, 'twill soon be past, 
Only what's done for Christ will last.
~ C. T. Studd

Monday, July 21, 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

Even When by Christie Smith

Elisabeth Elliot wrote,  “Faith is not an instinct. It certainly is not a feeling – feelings don’t help much when you’re in the lions’ den or hanging on a wooden Cross. Faith is not inferred from the happy way things work. It is an act of will, a choice, based on the unbreakable Word of a God who cannot lie, and who showed us what love and obedience and sacrifice mean, in the person of Jesus Christ.” 

I spent the weekend watching a family who is in the "lions' den" so to speak. They buried a son when everything inside of us says it is not the natural order of things. She buried a brother, her only sibling. They buried a parent while they were still children. She buried a husband before they could grow old together...before they could watch their children have children...before they could finish their dreams. Friends mourned with memories and with regret over time not taken that they'll never have again. A congregation is left without their leader. 

Why him? Why now? Why when he had such a passion for life and for people and for God? Why when it seemed that he was doing it right and accomplishing so much for the Lord?

So many questions left unanswered. 

As Christians, as people who believe in the Creator of the universe, shouldn't we have the answers? 

“Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them” (A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael).

So, the question is not "why," but "where" do we go for answers? "Who" do we turn to? 

“I do know that waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God." (Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity).

Our faith is not found in knowing all the answers, but in knowing WHO holds the answers. Our LIFE is not found in this world, but in the world to come. Our peace does not lie in our lives being perfect, but in the TRUTH of knowing everything works together perfectly for those of us who are in Christ Jesus. 

Even when things don't make sense. 
Even when people die too soon.
Even when the daughter's cure never comes or the son doesn't survive the car wreck or the mom stops breathing or the daddy's heart just stops beating. 

Even when, even then. And even here, in my own life, when I don’t suffer well, and I don’t give thanks, and I don’t pray once during the long day. Even then. God is still God. His love is still unconditional. And His will is still perfect. Even when I don't like it or understand it...even then.